If there is one preseason game to watch, tonight’s the night.
Jay Cutler and the Miami Dolphins offense should play into the second half.
After two joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles this week, things could actually get a little chippy, testy or emotional tonight.
Four preseason games is ridiculous, all agree.
But game three is the place to be.
Here are five Fins under pressure tonight:
- Jay Cutler — Cutler has passed for 24 yards as a Miami Dolphin so this is a chance to convince himself, teammates and coaches that there is reason to believe he’s got enough left. Cutler looked pretty good in two days of practice in Pennsylvania. He seemed to develop some chemistry with Kenny Stills and even tight end Julius Thomas. It will be interesting to see how much of the playbook Cutler and playcaller Adam Gase tap into tonight and in the season opener. Pay attention to how smoothly Cutler moves around and out of the pocket. The Dolphins players believe he can still sling it. “He makes a lot of amazing throws during practice,” center Mike Pouncey told me this week.
- Byron Maxwell — Maxwell really wants to show the Eagles they made a mistake by trading him one year after signing him to a big deal. How do we know? Maxwell told the assembled Miami and Philadelphia media groups this week. Maxwell finished his first season in Miami on positive notes. But Maxwell had some rough moments in practice this week. Perhaps Xavien Howard is actually Miami’s top cornerback and will be tasked with checking Alshon Jeffery tonight. But Maxwell may still have to deal with speedy Torrey Smith of shifty Nelson Agholor. Maxwell has a tendency to respond well when emotionally charged.
- Jesse Davis — Turns out the man starting at left guard for Miami was repairing farm equipment two years ago. This does not mean that Davis does not have the size, strength and desire to play at a competent level. That’s what the Dolphins coaches believe. And since guard Ted Larsen is out with a biceps injury and second-stringer Kraig Urbik had a knee procedure this week, for now it’s up to the undrafted Davis from the University of Idaho via the state of Washington. Davis must show he can protect Cutler and open reasonable holes for Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams.
- Mike Pouncey — The bubble wrap is off! For at least one night. For at least a few series, we can presume. Pouncey wanted a chance to play at least once in the preseason, and Gase will acquiesce. Pouncey has looked really strong in limited practice reps and he believes he’s ready to play at a Pro Bowl level. Gase said he’s going to follow his gut as far as how long to leave Pouncey in the game. It’s a Catch-22. On the one hand, all involved want to see Miami’s first-team offense gain confidence. And Pouncey wants the live-game reps with Cutler, to whom he’ll be snapping. On the other hand, Gase has repeatedly said what he cares most about is having Pouncey for “16-plus” games.
- Nate Allen — The former Philadelphia Eagle figures to be tested deep tonight by quarterback Carson Wentz. Allen admitted that missing time due to a groin injury did not help as he tries to develop a synergy with safety Reshad Jones. Allen also admitted that his time in Philadelphia included ups and downs. He told the Philadelphia media that he’s a wiser, more experienced player. It is possible Allen is simply holding down the fort until T.J. McDonald returns from suspension at mid-season. Gase said this week that Allen knows his assignments. Allen must perform at a higher level than the men who stepped into to replace Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus did when each player went down with an injury last season.
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